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Friday, April 30, 2021

'The Application of Common Sense'

 “Editing is simply the application of the common sense of any good reader. That's why, to be an editor, you have to be a reader. It's the number one qualification.  As an editor, I have to be tactful, of course.” —Robert Gottlieb


Born on April 29, 1931, Gottlieb is both an editor AND a writer, but it’s his editorship for which he is best known, having served as editor of The New Yorker for a number of years and editor-in-chief at book giant Simon & Schuster for 30 years.


While at S&S, he discovered and edited Catch-22 by the then-unknown Joseph Heller, and during his years there he edited works by almost every major writer – both of fiction and nonfiction. 

Gottlieb said it was his love of reading that led to his fascination with dissecting how books were crafted.  “I was the only child, and I know my father had certain thoughts about me. He was a lawyer and extremely literary, but he would have been much happier if I had wanted to be a lawyer, a scientist, an engineer. But what I wanted to do was read.”


For a time he thought that also might mean that he would become a full-time writer, but he said it was something he never really wanted to be.  “I don't like writing - it's so difficult to say what you mean,” he said.   “It's much easier to edit other people's writing … and help them say what they mean.”



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